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A Bus Driver Shortage Has Schools Scrambling Before the Start of the Academic Year

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As we head into a new academic year in August, school districts in the area are in need of bus drivers.

Sarah Juelfs is the office manager for Southwestern Illinois Bus Company, which serves the Chester and Steeleville School Districts in Randolph County.

She says advertising on Facebook the past three months produced 40 replies, but only two are on their way to completing the arduous application process.

"There's an 8-hour class you have to go take, three written tests at the DMV, drug tests, TB tests, a physical, fingerprinting and it's just one step after the other. So many people are like, that's a lot of stuff. Then I got to memorize all this information for the actual driving test."

She says the lack of drivers is forcing some school districts to reduce their bus routes. But, Juelfs says that can be problematic for rural schools where a lack of drivers could force students to cross busy streets and highways.

"There are no crosswalks. There are no crossing guards. These kids are going to have to crossing streets that were no meant to be walked across. It's just one of those community things that it gotten to the point, 'ok what would you do if you only had one fireman in your town?'"

Juelfs says bus drivers are not easy to find because it's a low-paying, often thankless job that requires a lengthy application process.

She says her company needs at least five more drivers and she's not optimistic that will happen by August.

To learn more about bus driving jobs, call Juelfs at 618-826-2323.